New Zealand Trip Story 2018

Travelling watercolour artist Moish Sokal has returned from his adventure trip to New Zealand’s South Island. He brings back a new and exciting collection of work from this and his earlier trips to the Lake District and Scotland for his exhibition 'in the Open' at the Malthouse Gallery, East Lambrook Manor Gardens, Silver Street, TA13 5HH, which opens on Tuesday June 5th.

The diverse and inspiring landscapes of one of the worlds’ last frontiers, settled by humans only 800 years ago, always fascinated me.

On this much dreamed-of trip my first port of call was Christchurch a city in transition, coping creatively with the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes some 7 years ago. However, the real magic lay in McKenzie country, further south in the expansive high ground from which the scenic peaks of Mt Cook National Park rise. The first of the 3 glacial lakes Lake Tekapo, a vast jewel of totally surreal colours, was just an introduction. I headed onwards to the largest of the three Alpine lakes, Lake Pukaki. There the most picture-perfect view across the lake’s intense turquoise waters all the way up to Mt Cook and its surrounding peaks, some 42 miles away. I had to take my trousers off and dive into this picture like scene just to feel the cold water, just to pinch myself that this is not a dream! Mount Cook seemed to be so close! I needed to get closer, to experience what it is like to face this snow-clad giant, or maybe even stand on a glacier and look at its peak. I went on a helicopter safari tour the next day, where awe-inspiring views of Mt Cook national parks’ peaks, fringed by the narrow strip of west coastal rainforest and the Tasman sea fading into the horizon lay beneath. I stood on a glacier and looked at Mount Cook in the eye!

The next destination was the tucked away Catlins on the south western coast. An enchanting region of native forests, lonely lighthouses and empty beaches. We stopped for a picnic on the way, overlooking a rocky beach, soon to realize that the rocks were covered in seals lazing in the warm sun. On lonely, eerie Cannibal Bay, at the end of windy unsealed road, I encountered what he thought to be a heap of kelp but turned out to be a massive sea lion sleeping after a busy night hunting. As I got close to the beast, the sleeping giant rose in anger and let out a mighty roar! In my haste to escape, I fell over with fear. Luckily these animals are not well equipped for moving on land.

Fiordland National Park on the south western corner of the island lay in wait for me to be experienced and inspired. This is New Zealand’s’ largest and most impenetrable wilderness, a jagged mountainous, densely forested landmass with deeply recessed sounds (fiords). I set off to explore Doubtful Sound, one of the largest and most remote fiord, starting by boat trip across lake Manapouri, and a connecting road by coach to the start of this magnificent wilderness. The weather turned stormy…The wind blowing in from the sea was so strong it was almost impossible to stand on deck and take a photo! Milford Sound, the other fiord, was much smaller yet from the roads end sitting dead centre of an exceedingly beautiful landscape of sheer rocky cliffs anchored in inky waters it stopped me in my track. I realized that I was looking at the world on the day it was created, a world of emerald green forests, waterfalls spilling out of hanging valleys into deep indigo waters teaming with playful dolphins, I couldn’t wait to start painting!

I headed north towards the towns of Queenstown and Wanaka a region studded with a cinematic background of mountains and lakes. Lake Wakatipu was just divine! I had to stop and swim! Equally so, lake Wanaka with its dramatic shades of deep turquoise fringed by amber and purple hills was just a picture I had to paint. Mt Aspiring national park verdant valleys, alpine meadows, unspoiled rivers, craggy mountains, and many glaciers provided the perfect backdrop… Driving onwards through the Haast Pass, I crossed over to the west coast, a narrow strip of dense rainforest jammed between the southern alps and the Tasman sea. I was now facing Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier from the other side and Lake Matheson, known as “the mirror lake”, just provided the perfect reflection for these on sunrise.

The excitement of this outdoor adventure, discovering new landscapes to paint in a new fresh style and palette is what this forthcoming exhibition is all about. Alongside these exotic paintings from New Zealand, I will also show work I painted following my first ever visit to the Lake district last May and to Scotland when exploring the romantic west coast, as well as other subjects he discovered whilst exploring my beloved Somerset.

This exhibition, set in the beautiful Grade 1 listed East Lambrook Manor Gardens, opens on June 5th to July 22rd, closed every Monday. Admission to Exhibition is free (this also includes café and nursery).

Further details on the artist and this exhibition can be obtained from or on 07812837825